Nyarota sues Daily News for US$364k

GEOFFREY Nyarota, the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Daily News, is embroiled in a labour dispute with the newspaper’s publishers, Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), whom he accuses of unlawfully terminating his contract.

According to court papers, Nyarota is demanding $364,000 in backpay and damages from ANZ.

Nyarota, who lived in the United States from 2003 to the beginning of 2010, was hired by ANZ and brought back to Zimbabwe in January last year to prepare for the re-launch of the Daily News.

His contract was, however, terminated after four months for allegedly failing to hand over his website, Zimbabwe Times, to ANZ as agreed.

Nyarota is arguing he was never found guilty of any offence or brought before a disciplinary hearing hence the termination of his contract was illegal.

Mordecai Mahlangu of Gill, Godlonton and Gerrans Legal Practitioners, representing ANZ, yesterday declined to comment on the dispute saying Nyarota’s claims were being denied by the newspaper group.

He said: “Labour matters are confidential. The matter should be treated like a private matter.”

Nyarota’s lawyer, Doreen Gapare of Scanlen and Holderness, claims her client was brought back to Zimbabwe by ANZ who had offered him a “senior position” both in management and editorial.

Nyarota relocated to Zimbabwe in February 2010 to take up the post.

He said ANZ paid for his airfares and for the transportation of his household property to Zimbabwe.

Gapare said upon arrival both parties did not put the contract in writing until on March 23 2009 when ANZ gave Nyarota an offer letter backdated to January 29 2009.

Nyarota refused to sign the contract arguing it was a departure from what had been agreed upon earlier.

He was subsequently fired on May 27 2010 a few days after ANZ had been granted its operating licence.

The Daily News was granted the licence in May last year and has been preparing to hit the streets since then.

The arbitrator is expected to make a determination on the dispute at the beginning of March.

Nyarota is also arguing that when he relocated, his wife abandoned two nursing jobs to join him.

This is not the first time that Nyarota has been fired from the Daily News.

In 2003, he was fired by then chief executive, Sam Sipepa Nkomo, now an MDC-T politician and a government minister, accusing him of sympathising with striking workers.

Nyarota, who was acting chief executive, negotiated with the workers and made private arrangements to pay their salaries.

After his dismissal Nyarota, who had been arrested on a number of occasions and witnessed the bombing of his office building and printing press, immediately left the country.

The newspaper was subsequently banned after Nkomo refused to have it licenced it with the relevant authorities.